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Religion and the Great Exhibition of 1851$
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Geoffrey Cantor

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199596676

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199596676.001.0001

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Fears and Dangers

Fears and Dangers

(p.19) 1 Fears and Dangers
Religion and the Great Exhibition of 1851

Geoffrey Cantor (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the many contemporary publications expressing anxiety that the Exhibition would undermine the Protestant faith in Britain. For some the threat came from foreign atheists intent on importing revolution, while others feared that in the light of the recent ‘papal aggression’ the Exhibition would be utilized by Catholics to undermine Protestantism. Others turned to prophecy to make sense of the Exhibition, interpreting it as a sign of the forthcoming apocalypse presaged by such biblical episodes as the destruction of the ungodly at Belshazzar's Feast, which, like the Exhibition, was a celebration of luxury. Another favourite text concerned the confusion of tongues and dispersion at the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1–9), which seemed particularly apposite as the Exhibition attracted foreigners speaking many different languages.

Keywords:   atheists, Babel, Belshazzar's Feast, confusion of tongues, fear of foreigners, Great Exhibition, papal aggression, prophecy, Protestantism

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